When news broke about a possible suspension of Cowboys defensive lineman, David Irving, you could hear the chatter of Cowboys Nation, “here we go again!” Like a broken record, Dallas is looking at having another player miss some football games. Some fans are questioning the leadership on the team, suggesting that Cowboys coach Jason Garrett is too soft and isn’t delivering the message needed to steer his players away from trouble. Others are saying that the Cowboys bring this on themselves with all the high-risk decisions they make as several of these players had huge red flags prior to coming to Dallas. And that didn’t stop the organization from signing them anyway. Then there are some that feel the blame lies with the individual player, which is true, but when you have so many different players involved, how can you not begin to think there is some other underlying root cause?
When you break it down, there are multiple attributing factors, but there is something going on in big D that is allowing this trend to continue. This tweet from NFL Research lays it all out for us.
If you do the math, this equates to the Cowboys missing almost 1.5 players for an entire season for three straight seasons. It also shows that five different players are involved, four of which are defensive ends. One could make a case that losing one and half key defensive players per year would be detrimental to a team. Of course, the bulk of the suspension damage came last year, yet the Cowboys tied a franchise best record with 13 wins. So while fans are disappointed by the lost games of the suspended players, opponents should be thankful.
The question still begs - is Dallas doing something wrong to get stuck will all this?
Earlier this week in an OTA Press Conference, Garrett was hit with a handful of questions regarding David Irving’s possible suspension and how the team has faced these types of ordeals repeatedly over the last few years. As you might expect, Garrett wasn’t real receptive to entertaining those type of questions. He refused to comment multiple times and gave the stink eye as reporters continued to probe. But when his “right kind of guy” culture was being questioned and he was asked how these incidents reflected his effort to make this locker room how he wants it, Garrett finally spoke out and had this to say:
“We absolutely have the right kind of guys in our locker room. Anyone who’s ever spent any time with the guys on our football team understands that. Just really high character guys. They’re great people on the field. They’re great people off the field. They work very hard at it. They understand what being a part of a team is and the sacrifices and the work that’s necessary to be a part of the Dallas Cowboys’ team. They get that. That doesn’t mean people are infallible. We make mistakes every day. As coaches, as staff members, and as players. And hopefully we learn from it and you move on”
And when you look up and down the roster, you’ll find many players that we all respect so much because of how they conduct themselves. But even with a great majority of good apples, why are bad ones constantly surfacing?
Jon Machota was recently asked about this and he did a little finger pointing.
Is there a culture embedded in the Cowboys that makes Dallas more susceptible to violations we routinely see like Randy Gregory and now David Irving? How could their "vaunted" mentoring program continue to miss this type of conduct?
Jon Machota: I wouldn't say it's a culture thing as much as it is they take chances on players more than other organizations. Some of Jerry Jones' biggest gambles in life have provided him with his greatest rewards. I don't see that philosophy changing any time soon. Whether it's an off the field issue or an injury concern, if the Cowboys feel like the potential reward far outweighs the risk, they're going to roll the dice.
All five players on this list are players that were character red flags. Here is a quick summary of all the pre-Dallas activity that the front office was aware of:
Greg Hardy - domestic violence suspension.
Randy Gregory - failing a drug test (marijuana) at the NFL Scouting Combine.
DeMarcus Lawrence - suspended at Boise State two different instances his sophomore season for violating team rules. Suspended again his junior year for disciplinary issues.
David Irving - arrested for criminal mischief, disorderly conduct, and fifth-degree theft after pictures and video surfaced showing him holding an uprooted stop sign during the late-night disturbance.
David Irving with the field goal black for the Cowboys. The same David Irving who ripped out a stop sign on Welch pic.twitter.com/bCx6I7vAgO— Eric Otis (@eoti22) November 2, 2015
Yep, he looks pretty guilty. He was suspended and ultimately dismissed from the team.
Now, before we throw Irving to the wolves, it should be noted that his first two years in Dallas have been rather copacetic when it comes to his behavior. He did have one incident last year when he got in a scuffle with Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Cam Erving. Both players were ejected. I’ve watched several replays and each time I am unable to see Irving doing anything to warrant an ejection, but according to a Browns player, he did. This is what Browns’ tackle, Joe Thomas said he saw:
"After the play was over, I heard whistles and turned around and saw that the guy was on top of Cam punching him in the face. It looked like a UFC fight. So I tried to run over there to split it up so that Cam didn't retaliate, thinking that obviously the guy on top was going to get ejected but as long as Cam didn't retaliate he wasn't going to get ejected. Obviously they both got ejected."
The refs must have saw the same thing because both were bounced.
I love David Irving. He’s been my pet cat for over a year now and I’m still a believer in what he can be. This recent news is disappointing. And even though this whole supplement ordeal could just be an innocent mistake, players have to be more responsible with what they put in their body. This is a harmful mental lapse for him, and as we have seen before - it’s not the first one.
You can break down each player and try to make an excuse for each of them, but what you can’t do is make excuses for the front office and their constant decisions to take chances. And the Cowboys are going to keep taking chances, however, keep a close eye on these type of things because there might be a shift in how they take those risks. For example, their 2016 Draft was filled with upstanding character guys. There were two risks - a player with a severe knee injury (Jaylon Smith) and a kid with a DUI (Dak Prescott). The Cowboys did their homework and now there is a lot of excitement generated for both these guys and their gold-star character has helped them get where they are. This year’s draft contained one risk - Jourdan Lewis, who is dealing with a domestic assault charge. Again, the Cowboys did their homework and feel great about what they got in Lewis.
Based on the last two off-seasons, it appears that their risk taking approach has changed. The Randy Gregory decision was a big mistake. And it was big enough to shift more control to Garrett. So, if you still haven’t made up your mind about what you think about this year’s draft picks, take comfort in knowing the Cowboys went all-in when it comes to their character.
Here is what Jim Harbaugh had to say about Taco Charlton and Lewis:
"Taco Charlton, Jourdan Lewis (are) two great young men because they truly want to be good, they're serious about being good and they've been put to the test. They've had to do the hard stuff. Football is not an easy, fun game. It's a hard, rough, tough sport and you've got to pay the price because when you get on the field - talk about honesty, it's are you good enough or are you not and you've got to be prepared for when you've got the opportunity to do that."
"I think (Cowboys head) Coach (Jason) Garrett will be really happy with the way they practice," Harbaugh said of Charlton and Lewis. "They're going to show up, they're going to be on time, they're going to work hard, they're going to do the kind of stuff that they say that they're going to do and it's important to them to be good. Even after Jourdan was an All-American, he still didn't miss a practice all spring ball. He still improved to get better and the same thing with Taco - every single year he's gotten to be a better football player.
Here is what Chidode Awuzie’s teammate had to say about him.
“He’s like the best friend — good grades, leads, breaks up fights if he sees them,” running back/defensive back Nick Bernardo said. “He’s like the person you think of when you think of the all-American stuff. He’s like an extra coach on our team.”
Garrett always preaches about accountability and has said they have to get better in their evaluation process. And if the last couple seasons are any indication, they have.